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PHILLIPS: Lamar Alexander’s secret weapons

- - Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Liberal Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander is in serious trouble. Polling shows his support is declining while challenger Joe Carr's support is taking off like a Saturn 5 rocket.

Conservatives across America have picked up this fight to get rid of the most liberal Republican senator who is running for re-election. Tea Party groups and major conservative celebrities have come out and endorsed Mr. Carr. Laura Ingraham, nationally syndicated radio host, did an event in Nashville for Mr. Carr on Tuesday.

Mr. Alexander has two secret weapons that may help him hold on to power. The first is George Flinn. Flinn is a Memphis doctor and self admitted friend of Lamar Alexander. Many Tennesseans believe that Dr. Flinn simply got into the race to split the conservative vote.

Dr. Flinn is a two-time loser running for Congress. In 2010, he spent over $2 million of his own money to try and get elected to Congress.

He failed.

A recent poll conducted on behalf of Tea Party Nation showed Mr. Carr trailing Mr. Alexander by 6 points. He had closed the gap from 24 points two months ago. Amazingly enough, Dr. Flinn is polling at 6 percent. Given Mr. Alexander's almost universal name recognition in Tennessee, it is a safe bet that those who are voting for Dr. Flinn would not be voting Alexander.

But Mr. Alexander has another secret weapon at his disposal.

Democrats.

Tennessee has open primaries. Twenty years ago, Tennessee was a purple state. No longer. It is deep red.

Things are so bad for the Democrats that in 2012, the Party denounced its own nominee who was challenging Republican Bob Corker.

The Democrat nominee for Senate has a better chance of winning the lottery than he does for winning the Senate seat.

With an open primary, Democrats can freely cross over and vote in the Republican primary. With no serious competition in the Democrat primary, many probably will.

The problem is not so much that Democrats can and will cross over to vote in Republican primaries. The real problem is that so much of the Republican Establishment has no problem with this.

Democrats are choosing Republican nominees and the party leadership has no problem with this. In Mississippi, Thad Cochran and the Haley Barbour political machine shamelessly reached out and got Democrats to cross over and vote for Cochran.

There is a simple solution to this problem.

Instead of relying on primaries, Republicans could simply pick their candidates with a convention of Republican political activists.

Republicans are the ones who should pick their nominees, not Democrats. Democrats by the same token should pick their nominees as well. It is the height of insanity that the primary system, as it currently exists in Tennessee, Mississippi and other states allows cross over voting.

If the Republican leadership were serious about stopping cross over voting, they would endorse conventions over primaries. Conservatives accuse the establishment of being willing to see liberal Democrats win before a conservative wins.

They are right.

Meanwhile, in Tennessee, it is coming down to the wire. Tennessee is the last big Tea Party challenge to the establishment in 2014. The day before the election in Virginia, no one believed that Dave Brat could beat Eric Cantor, but he did.

On Aug. 7, the voters of Tennessee will speak.

Don't be surprised to see Joe Carr giving a victory speech that evening.